Virus, Worm, Malware: What’s the Difference?
Because these terms are often used interchangeably, you may wonder what the difference is between a virus, worm and malware if your computer is having issues. Let’s begin with basics:
- Virus – a piece of code that is capable of copying itself and typically has a detrimental effect, such as corrupting a system or destroying data on an individual computer. A computer virus operates by inserting or attaching itself to a legitimate program or document that supports macros in order to execute its code.
- Worm – a malware computer program that replicates itself so it can spread to other computers, often, via a network. Almost always causing harm to the network, worms rely on security failures on the target computer in order to initially gain access.
- Malware – also known as malicious software, is a broad term used to refer to viruses, worms, ransomware, Trojan horses, keyloggers, rootkits, spyware, adware and other malicious software. Malware is designed to disrupt normal computer or mobile operations, gather sensitive information, get access to private computer systems and even to show unwanted advertising.
Symptoms of an Infected Computer
When unprotected devices are infected, they:
a. Run slower than normal.
b. Show popups both online and/or offline.
c. Have programs that do not open, run slow or close unexpectedly.
d. Have browser(s) that do not display some or any website at all.
e. Show the ‘FBI’ or ‘Department of Justice’ screen, it comes up shortly after loading the computer’s operating system.
f. Present problems when trying to recognize external hardware.
g. Show a blue screen with the error code.
Once your device exhibits the above symptoms, chances are good that it has been affected by a virus, worm or other type of malware and likely needs immediate attention from someone trained in the identification and removal of such.
What is Antivirus Software? How does Antivirus Software Work?
Antivirus software, sometimes known as anti-malware software, is designed to detect, prevent and take action to disarm or remove malicious software from your computer such as viruses, worms and Trojan horses. It may also prevent or remove unwanted spyware and adware in addition to other types of malicious programs. The first versions of antivirus software can be traced as far back as the 1980s.
Antivirus software will begin by checking your computer programs and comparing them to known types of malware. It will also scan your computer for behaviors that may signal the presence of a new, unknown malware. Typically, antivirus software uses all three scanning detection processes:
a. Specific Detection – This works by looking for known malware by a specific set of characteristics.
b. Generic Detection – This process looks for malware that are variants of known “families,” or malware related by a common codebase.
c. Heuristic Detection – This process scans for previously unknown viruses by looking for known suspicious behavior or file structures.
Although the detection tools are highly effective, no antivirus software is failsafe. If you suspect your device has been infected, you should take action to remedy the problem quickly.